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Arts Culture Tatler Guide to Important Philippine Art Masterpieces

Tatler Guide to Important Philippine Art Masterpieces

Tatler Guide to Important Philippine Art Masterpieces
By Franz Sorilla IV
By Franz Sorilla IV
June 05, 2015

Philippine Tatler joins the country’s celebration of arts and heritage with a round up of significant artworks by the Filipino masters of the 20th Century. 

Acrylic and ink
40.7 x 33.6 cm

This dramatic portrait from the Scavenger series depicts human figures seen as striving to get past through strong winds of a bleak dark night. In this somber piece that evokes a unique bond among family members convey a message of hope amidst the vicissitudes of life as well as unity and love that keep the portrait's subjects going.

The artist: Benedicto Cabrera, more popularly known as BenCab, is widely hailed as a master of contemporary Philippine art. In 1968, he joined the Saturday Group in Exhibition of Nudes, at the Solidaridad Galleries, where he exhibited sixty acrylic paintings with Sabel, scavengers, workers, and estuaries as subjects for his second solo show.

Oil on canvas mounted on wood
60.5 x 91.2 cm

This piece dramatically expresses themes of hope and struggle as they are unmistakably evident in the contricted limbs and determined facial expressions of the subjects. There is a strong emphasis of the message seen in the diagonal action lines that meet at the centre of the canvas, where the crimson sun (a prevalent symbol of the movement at the time) is positioned as a symbol of perpetual energy. 

The artist: Ang Kiukok is one of the most vital and dynamic figures who emerged during the ‘60s. He is considered as one of the leaders of Philippine figurative expressionism because of his vivid and cubistic figures of the terror and angst of the times.

65 x 44.5 cm

This work is a rare and early example of the artist’s widely known signature style. Forms are drawn with the most basic elements of line and space.

The artist: Arturo Luz has created masterpieces that exemplify an ideal sublime formality in expression and form. Luz produced works that elevated Filipino aesthetic vision to new heights of sophisticated simplicity.

Ina at Anak
Oil on Masonite board
50.8 x 40. 6 cm 

With distinctive elements like hay stacks and nipa hut, this piece is a highly Filipinised version of the Madonna and the Child. The piece expresses a mother’s gloomy resignation drawn in verdant dip and swell, similar to how the mood of a breaking dawn is set through the purple arcs of the sky. 

The artist:  Hernando Ocampo is a self-taught painter and a leading member of the pre-war Thirteen Moderns—the artists who paved the way for modern art in the country. His works provided an understanding and awareness of the harsh social realities in the country, which led to the rise of nationalistic spirit in the post-war era. 

Two Women
Oil pastel on paper
42 x 30.5 cm

This attractive work highlights the artist’s transparent cubism, which was most prevalent during the 1970s.

The artist: Vicente Manansala believe that the beauty of art is in the process, in the moment of doing a particular painting, closely associating it with the act of making love. His paintings are described as visions of reality balanced with abstraction.

The Builders
Oil on wood
121 x 322 cm

This masterpiece that shows the artist’s knowledge and skill in modern art, emphasises linear and structural compositions. It depicts the essence of men engaged in labour through the contortion of the bodies.

The artist: Victorio Edades is considered as the “Father of Modern Philippine Painting” because of his unique style of painting distorted human figures in rough, bold impasto strokes, as well as pioneering the development of arts program in Philippine education. Opposite the bright and cheerful style of Fernando Amorsolo (his contemporary), Edades’ colours were dark and somber with labourers and factory workers as his often subjects.

Jeeps and Calesa
Tempera on paper
27.3 x 19 cm

At the time when the artist was transitioning from cartoonist/illustrator to painter, he did some pieces that highlight his fascination to the folk genre and street scenes. This particular piece is a rare surviving example of the artist's collection of works during his transitional period that reminds one of Metro Manila in the '50s.

The artist: Mauro Malang Santos is known for creating the popular comic strip character Kosme, the Cop for the Manila Chronicles. When he emerged as a serious painter in the ‘60s, he featured in his works the urban folk as well as the rustic folk caught up in the hustle and bustle of the big city. His works usually project light-hearted festiveness through the use of whimsical colours and shapes.


Oil in board
34 x 66 cm

Through hues of blue and unique impasto technique, viewers may find the gestural strokes to resemble a flock of sheep in a cool river and lush surroundings. This piece bears the hallmarks of early abstract expressionism in the artist's works, of which he is very known up to this day. It is a rare piece from the artist's vast collection of works that somehow gives a glimpse of his early beginnings.

The artist:  Jose Joya is a painter and multimedia artist who has gained popularity even in the international art scene. Most of his paintings’ harmonious colours are inspired by Philippine landscapes like green for rice fields and gold for harvest. He is also known for using kiping in his paintings as well as spontaneous, broad strokes using various mediums like brush and spatula.

Mango Pickers

Watercolour on paper
23.5 x 33.5 cm

This charming, whimsical picture emphasises the keen eye of the artist for detail. With the artist's early demise, this watercolour is a rare find from his very limited number of works.

The artist:  Carlos “Botong” Francisco single-handedly revived the forgotten art of mural. He is known for his eye for composition, his use of lush tropical colours, and abiding faith in the folk values, as these were all evident in his artworks. 

Under the Mango Tree
Oil on board
44 x 64.5 cm 

Sweet and light, this quintessential piece from the artist's collection of works from the Golden Period of his career emphasises how the artist maximised his signature lighting technique. Viewers find themselves being nostalgic as they look upon this masterpiece that depicts an ordinary and tranquil rural life, which is very much in contrast to the turbulent year when it was painted.

The artist: Fernando Amorsolo is the first Filipino artist to be given with the National Artist recognition.  He developed the backlighting technique, which became his signature and definitive technique among other painters, making some elements in his paintings to appear luminescent. With his peaceful portrayals of the countryside, Amorsolo was able to present Filipino values and culture and bring optimism to the Filipino people especially during the World War II era.


Arts & Culture Arts Filipino artists Philippine artworks National Artist for Visual Art important-philippine-art


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